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Arts and Entertainment

'Alabama Baggage' Puts Dark Secrets, Pedophilia And Death Center Stage

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Buddy Farmer's taboo-prodding drama, Alabama Baggage, is playing at Theatre Asylum. Set in an old southern cemetery, Farmer's plot details a chance graveside meeting between two men. Despite time and distance, they learn that they were both sexually abused by the same pedophile during childhood. Their narratives come to a forefront at the tombstone of their abuser. Although the Alabama Baggage plot is a bit too contrived at times; intimate, often dark feelings of revenge, disgust, fear and shame are shared through strong performance conduit.

Cast leads Will Blagrove and Ashley McGee are the best elements of the production. In the role of Ben, an elected and respected Kentucky sheriff, Blagrove is keenly captivating and engaging, having found the perfect balance of genuineness and magnetism. McGee renders the role of Lucas, an Alabama native looking to make peace with his past, with gentle, sweet sympathy for his character (or perhaps the socially secreted real-life victims that the role of Lucas represents) which he appropriately envelopes in subtle uncertainty.

In the supporting role of Hal, the play's central figure, John Combs tackles of tough job of playing the worst sort of bad guy (a non-repentant pedophile) delicately with many good moments of emotive energy. Although in significantly smaller roles, William Jones has the most wonderfully maniacal laugh and we love Jody Fasanella's Deep South charm and stoicism.

Paul Messinger's direction of Alabama Baggage can be clumsy at times, but he does a good job of maintaining an inviting, fast-paced tone. Farmer's script could stand for some tact, finesse and suspense-building development, although many will appreciate the utter respect he gives to his taboo subject matter which, ideally, might serve as a cathartic gesture for those who have suffered sexual abuse.

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Alabama Baggage is playing at Theatre Asylum through April 14. Tickets ($25) are available online or via phone at 323-960-7711.